A friend was complaining today that he didn't get Facebook. I mentioned that I didn't either. That's not actually true. I do get it; it just serves a different purpose than twitter. Or LinkedIn. So I thought that I would write a bit about how I see all of these pieces fitting together.
Twitter is truly emerging as a business tool. And a political tool. And social as well, of course. But for business, it offers a great opportunity to engage your customers (and they, you) in a conversation. Of 140 characters or less. So, sure, it's not a meaningful long-lasting relationship conversation. But it's an interaction that you probably weren't having otherwise, so it's a good converation. It's fleeting. You "tweet" something and it's out there. Then it's gone (except for the fact that the web has a long memory. But for the most part it's fleeting. It's difficult to carry on a conversation over time, particularly between more than 2 people. Oh, and it's pretty open. By default, your updates are available to the world at large. Sure, you can secure them, but then you lose a bit of the charm of twitter (the rapid web-like growth from friends and from sharing a common interest). So, in short, twitter offers you a way to meet people through friends of friends (and through following threads of interest). This is extreme networking, and quite effective.
Facebook fits a different need. It's not open, by default. You choose your friends, approve them. With that, in my mind, comes responsibility. I have to choose who I want to include and who I want to exclude. From a business standpoint, a personal facebook account can collide in an awkward way with your business interests. Facebook is just that … personal. People post photos of their families, and their high school friends connect with them. It can be a bit awkward to have people 20+ years in your past posting side-by-side with your business associates. I'm reminded of the friend who happily left a family nickname behind when he went to college. Finally he was free. Until some high school friends went to visit him at college and unwittingly revealed the decades-old nickname that he had been so happy to shed. Ugh.
What Facebook does nicely is promote events to your friends. When one of them signs up for an event through Facebook, others learn about the event (presuming that they may have similar interests). That's compelling, but for me, the awkwardness remains. Facebook is adding some controls to allow you to partition updates to different people. No matter. I use Facebook for what I see as its strengths: communicating with friends. So while I see twitter as a way to meet new people and carry on very casual conversations with people I may or may not already know but share an interest, I see Facebook as a way to carry on a longer, more persistent conversation with people I already know (or used to, way back when). I won't likely meet new people through Facebook, unless we happen to join the same "group", But even so, I'm probably not going to carry on much of a conversation with them,
So where does LinkedIn fit it? Good question. LinkedIn is a referral network. While they too seem to want to support group-based conversations, I don't see many people using it that way. You don't "hang out" on LinkedIn like you might on Facebook and probably do on twitter. You go there to see if you can get an introduction to someone, or to find someone with a particular area of expertise.
So, I see all of these as useful social media tools. They really do just fit different needs. And I like it that way.
So follow me: dmarsh on twitter. But please don't feel offended if I don't add you as a friend on facebook. It really isn't anything personal. I just don't spend much time there, and I don't particularly want to be reminded of my awkward teenage years. My adult years are awkward enough!